Editor’s note: This guest post includes a business-related announcement from AFN‘s parent company, AgFunder.
Manuel Gonzalez, the former global head of food and ag startup innovation for Rabobank and founder of FoodBytes! by Rabobank, has joined AgFunder as partner.
Gonzalez will focus on growing the venture capital firm’s AUM and financial products offering, as well as work with AgFunder founding partners Michael Dean and Rob Leclerc in managing the firm’s growing number of foodtech and agtech funds. He will take the lead on fundraising for Fund IV later this year.
Previously, Gonzalez served as global head of food and agriculture startup innovation at Rabobank, one of the world’s leading agrifood-focused financial services providers. While there, he launched Rabobank’s startup innovation platforms: the pitch competition and startup discovery platform FoodBytes! and the accelerator TERRA. Prior to that he was managing director and general manager of Rabobank West Coast in the US, where he led work with corporate clients, and general manager of Rabobank Mexico.
“I couldn’t be more excited about joining AgFunder. I met Rob and Michael in 2015 and I was immediately drawn to what they were building and the huge impact they’d already had on building the agrifoodtech ecosystem globally,” Gonzalez says.
“They’ve built a fantastic team that’s talent-deep, not process-deep; it’s a team built to do exceptional things, like the founders we back. They were also ahead of the curve in understanding the power of media and technology to create the venture capital firm of the future alongside just a handful of other visionary VCs such as a16z.”
Dean says that “bringing Manuel into the AgFunder family was really just a matter of time.”
The firm is “fortunate to gain a partner with Manuel’s skill set and background in food and agriculture” but “it is the person we are gaining that is most exciting,” he adds.
Leclerc says that he and Dean have “gotten to know Manuel as both a close friend and advisor for the past six years.”
“Where Michael has a law and environmental background, and myself science and engineering, Manuel brings a rare food and ag finance background overseeing billions in AUM that really helps complete the partnership.”
Agrifoodtech venture capital has been a resilient asset class during the Covid-19 pandemic and investment in the space grew again in 2020 to record-breaking levels, according to AgFunder data. However, the global pandemic also highlighted many weaknesses in the global food supply chain, underlining the importance of new technologies and innovation to build a food system fit for the future.
“Foodtech and agtech have become part of the zeitgeist,” Leclerc says. “Whether it’s alternative protein, food as medicine, delivery and logistics, or carbon reduction, foodtech and agtech is going to be a major investment theme over the next couple of decades.”
Before joining Rabobank, Gonzalez was the founder and CEO of González Guzmán Alimentos, a yogurt and sour cream production and distribution company in his home town of Guadalajara, Mexico.
How can New Zealand’s agri-innovation ecosystem become the world leader it should be?